VR Genome Browser - Using Virtual Reality to visualize complex genomic data
Steve Jelley1, Martin Hemberg2*
1Hammerhead VR, 2Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
Genomic datasets are often very large and high dimensional, making them difficult to visualize. Even with large high-resolution monitors exploration can be challenging and an alternative paradigm is required. Virtual Reality (VR) technology has recently come of age and the reduced costs of the hardware now makes it feasible to use in academic research labs. So far, the focus has predominantly been on entertainment applications, but several organizations including Volkswagen, Siemens and NASA have explored the use of VR for visualizing very large and complex datasets.
We have started to explore the potential of VR for visualizing genomic data. In 2015, we created a proof-of-concept for a VR genome browser (2D video available at ). As part of the Human Cell Atlas initiative we have developed an application for collaborative investigation of scRNA-seq data. In addition to displaying a low-dimensional projection of the data, the user may also overlay additional layers of information, e.g. by coloring cells based on the expression level of a gene. Moreover, our application features an interactive component which allows multiple users to explore the same virtual environment. If selected for a presentation, we will bring VR headsets to the conference and stage a demonstration that will allow conference delegates to try out the system themselves.